Turkish court decides once again for continuation of journalist Parıldak’s imprisonment

Journalist Ayşenur Parıldak.

Ankara 14th High Criminal Court has ruled once again on Thursday for continuation of the imprisonment of journalist Ayşenur Parıldak, who has been behind bars nearly 15 months.

Ayşenur Parıldak, a 27-year-old reporter from the now-closed Zaman daily, appeared in court on Thursday. Arrested on August 11, 2016 at the Ankara University’s School of Law campus, where she was also studying law, Parıldak faces charges of writing “subjective stories” as well as accusations for her Twitter messages.

On Thursday, Prosecutor Mustafa Manga has introduced his main opinion on the case and demand 15 years of prison term for Parıldak. The verdict is expected to be given in Parıldak’s case during the last hearing planned to be held on November 21, 2017.

Parıldak is also accused of having used ByLock mobile phone messaging app which Turkish authorities claim to be the top communication tool among the sympathizers of the Gülen movement. On Tuesday, Parıldak said she has never used ByLock and demanded her release.

Parıldak is also accused of being followed by an anonymous whistleblower on Twitter named Fuat Avni. The well-known user, who provided tips on corruption and unlawful government actions, was followed by over 2 million people and followed 180 people who are not being prosecuted on similar charges.

In October 2016, Parıldak wrote a letter to Cumhuriyet daily from Ankara’s Sincan Prison, talking about solitary confinement and sexual harassment, which led to a ban on letters being sent from that prison.

Parıldak, who started journalism as an intern at the now-closed-down liberal Taraf daily in 2011, also stands accused for this period since the prosecutor asserts that the Taraf daily worked for the interests of the Gülen movement.

Parıldak were released by the court on May 2, 2017 but was later re-arrested by the same court before being freed since a prosecutor objected to the initial ruling. The Oslo-based Vigdis Freedom Foundation (VFF) awarded Parıldak with its inaugural Shahnoush Courage Award last month.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 255 journalists and media workers are in jails as of November 8, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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